Free speech and offensive speech

joesaccoonsatire1200I think freedom of speech is meaningless unless it includes the right to say, write and draw things that offend people.

I think it is a bad thing when people do not speak their minds for fear of retaliation—legal, economic or physical.

I think it is a bad thing—although a lesser bad thing—when people go out of their way to be insulting and offensive just to show they have a right to be insulting and offensive.

I think this is particularly true when the target of the insults and offense is an unpopular minority.   This is what usually falls under the heading of “politically incorrect”.

I think ridicule should be directed upward against the rich and powerful, not downward against the poor and weak.

This is all a way of making it clear that when I say  I really, really dislike the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, I am not trying to justify censorship or excuse murder.

The cartoons don’t seem to have any point except shock value, and I think.  They remind me of Hustler magazine.  And while the cartoonists have lampooned every institution in France, all the ones I’ve seen on-line target the Muslim religion.

Admittedly, I have not read the content, and I as an American may not appreciate how the French see them.  This is my personal reaction, not an authoritative judgment.

I believe in the principle of “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  I defend the right of museum curators to exhibit obscene and anti-Christian art works.  I defend the right of Holocaust deniers to publish their false opinions.  I defend the right of people to do all kinds of things I wish they wouldn’t do.

Also, the U.S. government’s military and covert interventions have resulted in the deaths of probably as many innocent people as Muslim terrorist attacks have.  Even not counting the instances when the US government was secretly working with Muslim terrorists.

Of course you can protest both.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.  The pot in fact does have a right to call the kettle black.  And vice versa.


In Solidarity With a Free Press: Some More Blasphemous Cartoons by Glenn Greenwald for The Intercept.

Charlie Hebdo and the Moral Moment by Ian Welsh.

Paris Terrorist Was Radicalized by Bush’s Iraq War, Abu Ghraib Torture by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.

Charlie Hebdo: Paris attack brothers’ campaign of terror can be traced back to Algeria in 1954 by Robert Fisk for The Independent.

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6 Responses to “Free speech and offensive speech”

  1. prayerwarriorpsychicnot Says:

    I haven’t seen the Charlie Hebdo cartoons nor have any interest in seeing them. Not because of their subject matter but because I gleaned the entire ethos of the magazine was puerile rubbish. Alternatively I did seek out the Dutch? Cartoons – because it wasn’t clear to me why the British media had censored them. I couldn’t see anything offensive in them. I understand it is Sikhs not Muslims who wear turbans and as no-one knows what Mohammed looked like nobody can create a likeness of him. The point of the Dutch cartoons was people justifying bombing under cover of religion. They were innocuous by common standards of Western cartooning. I don’t like porn either, therefore I don’t view it. As a mere woman if I can live without finding offence on every corner I fail to see why brave macho men can’t manage it. Arguably Muslim men are one of the most women- abusing groups of men on the planet.


    • philebersole Says:

      I don’t approve of how women are treated in majority-Muslim countries. However—

      I have a good friend of Muslim heritage, and I once asked her what she thought of the way Muslim men treated their wives. Her reply was that Western men are more respectful of their wives than Muslim men, but Muslim men are more respectful of their mothers.

      About 10 or so years ago I did volunteer work for Catholic Charities refugee resettlement work here in Rochester, NY, and drove Somali, Sudanese and Aghans, among others, to medical and other appointments.

      Among all these people, the husbands and wives seemed to have a loving and mutual respectful relationship—which isn’t always true of couples in any or no religion.

      Liked by 1 person

      • prayerwarriorpsychicnot Says:

        I am OK with this. Up to a few years ago I lived in London and we had Muslim neighbours – who on the whole were better neighbours than many of the others. They were no trouble and kept to themselves. I am referring to the cultural practices of many Muslim countries often actively defended by the religion. FGM, child and forced marriage, ” honour “killings. As the Muslim community in the UK has expanded these practices are now occurring here. I don’t want to see ” divide and rule” and society fragmented into “tribes” waging open war against each other. A situation our rulers seem to be deliberately generating. “Londonistan” was deliberately made a haven for Islamist terrorists by our govt, people who had been expelled from Muslim countries as trouble makers. They made/are worsening the problem. I would like to see the same investment in solving it.


      • philebersole Says:

        I agree. Tolerance for a religion and a culture does not require tolerance for lawbreaking or violation of fundamental human rights, as defined by law in the USA and the UK.

        I believe in the rule of law. Nobody should be beneath the protection of the law, nobody should be above the requirement to obey the law.

        There shouldn’t be different laws for different religions, any more than there should be different laws for different races or social classes.


  2. prayerwarriorpsychicnot Says:

    Agree. And the responsibility for these situations liie completely with our govts. They should not be allowed to create a big mess then expend all their energy in shifting blame.


  3. djgarcia94 Says:

    I agree, the whole reason for any opposition to free speech in general or specific exercises of it is that it will offend somebody. Like how Russia has free speech so long as it doesn’t offend anyone in office. The ironic thing about the Paris attacks is that it the effort to suppress Hebdo’s message brought the magazine to global attention. From what I have read it had been notorious in France before but with the exception of the occasional lawsuit most people ignored, it which is the sensible thing to do with something they find offensive.


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